The coastal town of Semporna.


Semporna, meaning ‘perfect’ in Malay, is a small township located in the easternmost Malaysian state of Sabah.

Sitting on the mouth of Darvel Bay, which opens up to the Celebes Sea, it is the gateway to hundreds of islands off its coast, making it a popular starting point for island hopping in Sabah.

The town is Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) territory, as evidenced by clusters of stilt houses protruding from the sea all over town. Even its chaotic market, where buses stop, is half built on land and stilts.

Hotels and dive packages are generally cheaper in Semporna than on the islands.

Accommodation & day trips

Semporna is an excellent base for day tours to Mabul, Sipadan and Tun Sakaran Marine Park. Tailor-made packages to dozens of other islands may also easily be organized.

Day trips from Semporna

Most dive operators from the islands have offices here and provide a discount for accommodation in Semporna or the islands where they are based, if you will be snorkeling or diving with them.

Things to do

Today, Semporna has awakened to the demands of tourism and attracts many more visitors who stay the night to join a river cruise or travel to the Bukit Tengkorak Archaelogical Site about 10km away.

The town comes alive once a year during the colourful Regatta Lepa festival, a popular event showcasing the tradition and customs of the Bajau Laut people.

However, Semporna’s islands are the main reason visitors find themselves passing through this town.

Island hopping

The islands off Semporna, also Bajau territory, are exquisitely beautiful. With the exception of Mabul, Kapalai and Sipadan, the rest are rarely visited.

Visitors usually make their way to the islands of Tun Sakaran Marine Park, with the most popular being Bohey Dulang, Mantabuan and Sibuan.

Boheyan and Mataking are renowned for their magnificent rays and turtles. For some terrestrial wildlife, Timbun Mata has a population of birds, deers, monkeys, wild boar and bats.

There is also Pom Pom and Bum Bum, which is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel.

Getting here

The nearest airport to Semporna is Tawau Airport. From there, it is about an hour’s journey to Semporna, where visitors may stay the night or board speedboats to get to their respective destinations.

► Read more on how to get to Semporna.



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